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Friday, January 18 2019 @ 05:41 pm ACDT

Crocs Curse Continues – Buffaloes To Grand Final

For the ninth consecutive occasion, the Southern Districts Crocs have lost a semi-final and after leading the ladder all year they now face the prospect of going out of the NTFL finals in straight sets unless they can reverse their fortunes. Their loss to the Darwin Buffaloes could be costly, but for Buffaloes’ fans, it is manna from heaven as they contemplate the now real possibility of a premiership – just one win away.

It would be the second successive year that the Crocs topped the home and away ladder and won the minor premiership, only to stumble as soon as their finals matches began. The team would be shaken badly by the outcome of their match and its ramifications, but they didn’t finish on top of the ladder for no reason – they are a class act and will bounce back next weekend in the Preliminary Final against the Nightcliff Tigers.

The Darwin Buffaloes have waited twelve long years for another flag opportunity. Since defeating Saint to win the 2005/06 flag, the Buffaloes have not been back to a grand final – until now. Fans will dare to dream now that the club’s 24th premiership is on the horizon.

It is remarkable that the Buffaloes have turned their season around. Back in Round 5 and then Round 7 the team kicked just two goals in each match (significantly against both Crocs and Tigers) and had to find scoring options to even reach the finals. Now, after downing both of those teams in the past two weeks, the Buffaloes know they can compete victoriously against each. They have to be a strong chance to win the flag.

As has been the case so often in finals, a good start can set up a game. The Buffaloes got away to a huge seven goal to one start in the first quarter. As much as the Crocs tried to claw back into the game, the Buffaloes had answers. When they didn’t, Mother Nature helped. After lightning stopped the game for 20 minutes during the third quarter, and TIO Stadium was almost submerged, the Crocs knew they were up against it to overhaul the Buffaloes in conditions better suited to freestyle swimming than football. Despite a last quarter fightback, Crocs just couldn’t bridge the gap, going down to the Buffaloes by 20 points.

Whilst the Buffaloes had dual attacking options in Darren Shillabeer and Adam Sambono with bags of goals, Crocs struggled to find enough avenues to goal with Dean Staunton, Rory O’Brien and Ed Barlow nabbing two each.

The Nightcliff Tigers have kept their flag chances well and truly alive by defeating St Mary’s in the other elimination Semi-Final. The Green Machine held sway at the quarter-time and half-time breaks, albeit narrowly. However, a withering even goal to nil third quarter by the Tigers set up victory for the Nightcliff crew. Despite the Saints fighting back in the final quarter, it was a bridge too far to chase down a six-goal deficit. The Tigers went on to record an impressive 24-point win and will now meet the Southern District Crocs in next weekend’s Preliminary Final.

It was strong team effort from the Tigers. Kyle Emery booted three goals, whilst former Saint, Cameron Ilett, was amongst the Tigers’ best players. With his knowledge of the opposition, he became a key part of the Tiger planning and ultimate victory. Peter Macfarlane booted three goals for the Saints to take his season tally to 45 and finishing in second place on the goal kicking behind Crocs’ star Will Farrer.

Next weekend’s Preliminary Final will be played at TIO Stadium on Saturday night at 7.00pm. The Crocs and Tigers have met twice this season with victory to the Crocs on both occasions. Their last scheduled meeting in Round 14 was washed out with points shared. This next encounter is sure to be a beauty with the winner to take on the Darwin Buffaloes for the 2017/18 flag.

Final Scores:
Nightcliff Tigers 11 10 76 d St Marys 7 10 52
Darwin Buffaloes 13 10 88 d Southern Districts Crocs 10 8 68

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